I have discussed creating fictional places and using actual sites. The fun part about using real places is the research; going to the places to obtain accurate descriptions, to get a sense of surroundings.
This weekend I did another research venture for the rewrite of Alpha. (Up to Chapter 18). There is a scene I wrote last week using satellite imagery but when I visited the site, it was a little different than seen on the computer. Topography, landscape and structures were different. I'm going to have to change a few things to stay accurate and legitimate, but I think the scene will stronger for doing so.
I visited another spot to be used in an upcoming scene. I can stay pretty much true to form because not much has changed in this particular area.
Both scenes involve the woods and chases. Bad guys are chasing Mallory and she has to use her wits and martial arts skills to come out on top. When writing the first scene I didn't really have in mind the ending, how she was going to defeat her pursuers. Having a weapons class the previous night birthed an idea. So, as she is about to confront her opponents upon a bridge, she utilizes her surroundings to her advantage. Namely, she scoops up a five foot length of solid branch and turns it into a long staff a'la Friar Tuck.
For the scene upcoming, in the original draft, I had her grappling with her attacker, then throwing him into a nearby creek. However, I took an idea from a newsletter-a new version of the personal tazer-and incorporated that weapon in the story. This scene will be the first time she gets to use the wonder weapon. However, putting new stuff into the story brings up a problem-this story is a prequel from the first story. Mallory didn't have the stun weapon in the first story, so I have to find a way for this particular weapon to disappear-legitimately, of course-by the end of the story.
The fun part, as I said, was visiting the area. Having a friend along to bounce ideas off of just makes if that much more exciting. My great ideas sometimes need to have a reality check, especially with this story. I don't know if I mentioned it, but when I skimmed over this first story, written back in '93, '94, I realized how awful the writing was. But, I could still use the plot. Yes, I've had to update the sites used because they've changed in seventeen years and changed around some of the action in the scenes to fit my taekwondo experience during my years as a student and instructor.
If you can create a house, a neighborhood, a town, or even an entire country - super. For those who need real places, don't deny yourself the pleasure of visiting your sites to better pass along the ambiance and the 'reality.'
PS. Look for an extra blog on Monday, April 19 at http://echelonexploration.wordpress.com.